Attic entertainment

Cinemas come in all shapes and sizes, as we find out here in this cinema room in the attic. Amy Wallington finds out what challenges it presents.

A home cinema is often a big part of the type of projects this industry is involved in. Everyone wants the ultimate cinematic experience and where better than in the comfort of your own home?

In this instance, however, the homeowner has been torn for a long time as to whether he wanted a home cinema or not. Although he loves watching movies, he really enjoyed the experience of going to the cinema to watch them and was worried he would not be able to recreate that feeling in his own home with somewhat limited space.

But he changed his mind when he realised how much the pandemic has changed the face of cinema, with many movies skipping the big screen completely and premiering on streaming platforms instead.

“The lack of parallel walls and the ability to maintain the desired angles for spatial sound made us decide on a 5.1.4 system instead of 7.1.x.”

Therefore, the homeowner revisited his idea of having a cinema room in his attic. “This was a very challenging project because the attic presented many limitations and the customer was very demanding,” admits Andrzej Gratkowski, from Polish integration firm, Cinematic. “He expected the highest quality cinema but was reluctant to compromise.”

Despite the constraints the attic was producing, Cinematic presented a relatively simple cinema design based on three Procella Audio P15A subwoofers and a 7.1 system implemented by Procella Audio P6V and P5 speakers.

“The customer was delighted,” says Gratkowski. “The spaciousness of the sound had an amazing impression on him. He liked the realism obtained in the cinema room and tangibility of sound.”

Film buff

Not worrying too much about the overall design and aesthetics of the room, the homeowner wanted it to be a relatively modest and comfortable experience to enjoy films and series. He wanted the performance side of the room to exceed commercial cinemas.

The integrator made a plan and began designing the room, which soon evolved as the homeowner realised how much the pandemic was affecting the commercial cinema industry, and he went from wanting a simple attic cinema to a professional cinema.

Designs began, as Gratkowski explains: “This is the stage of reflection and calculation. We analyse many elements and factors, make a number of decisions and compromises, which ultimately leads to the optimal solution for a given situation. The design of the cinema usually includes from a dozen to more than 30 drawings and diagrams. Every element and nuance of the cinema must be repeatedly analysed in terms of investors’ preferences and expectation, the physical possibilities imposed by the room, budget constraints, and whether it complies with industry recommendations and standards.”

Shapes & sizes

Naturally, an attic cinema is usually quite challenging compared to a typical cinema build when it is in a garage or other square/rectangular room. This one was particularly challenging as it was separated into two parts: one half was dedicated to the cinema and the other was for a bar and billiards room separated only by a curtain when the cinema is being used.

The entire attic space was fairly large, however, the cinema was allocated approximately 4 x 5.4m which is a relatively small area. “A significant difficulty was the inability to divide the attic into parts to separate them physically from each other with the help of a door and a wall,” adds Gratkowski. “Also, large bevels not only significantly lowered the room but also complicated the acoustics.”

“This was a very challenging project because the attic presented many limitations and the customer was very demanding.”

The shape of the room and the bevels throughout the space dictated a lot of the cinema’s equipment. As the homeowner was a big film lover, the integrator considered a cinematic format of 2.35:1, 2.37:1 or 2.39:1. “In such a situation, the cinema image fills the entire surface in a room with a low ceiling and it’s possible to mount a larger screen,” explains Gratkowski.

“Unfortunately, when watching series and movies from Netflix on a widescreen, we have to zoom out to fit the height of the screen. This meant we had to reduce the width of the displayed image and the choice fell on the 16:9 format and all the consequences associated with it. Due to the bevels, the maximum screen size had to be 254cm in the base, which is relatively small for an attic cinema room.”

Audio and acoustics were also greatly affected by the size and shape of the room. “A low room with bevels, where the distances between individual speakers and spectators are small, is always a huge challenge in a cinema,” he continues. “It is difficult to ensure the right stage and spaciousness of sound, and the room often gives the impression of being small. With a cinema sound system, it is usually the aim to achieve as much spaciousness as possible, which is necessary when playing films where action takes place in open areas. Playing such scenes from speakers located next to the ears of the viewers never allows for satisfactory realism. In addition, we care less about direct, point sound and more about creating the illusion of being in the spaces and locations seen on the screen.”

The acoustic aspect of the room was also a problem due to the bevels and lack of partitioning wall. “Thanks to a large number of dissipating systems, we distribute energy in different directions which is gradually precipitated. In this way, we can control the reverberation time and maintain the neutrality of the audio.”

Sound isolation could not be achieved due to the open nature of the room.

Audio & video

Cinematic ended up choosing an acoustically transparent screen so that speakers could be installed behind. Although the room constraints resulted in a smaller screen, the combination of the Screen Research screen and the Sony VPL-VW790ES laser projector allowed for high-quality HDR projection.

The main content source used was a 4K UHD player from Panasonic complemented by a satellite TV tuner and a device used to stream data from platforms such as Netflix and HBO Go.

Procella Audio was the speaker brand of choice in this attic cinema install. “We use Procella speaker sets in most of our projects due to the undeniable advantages of high-efficiency, excellent directivity, evenly distributed acoustic energy and desired sound propagation in home cinemas,” says Gratkowski.

He adds: “The lack of parallel walls and the ability to maintain the desired angles for spatial sound made us decide on a 5.1.4 system instead of 7.1.x. We would have a lot of problems with the correct placement of side sets.”

Behind the screen, Cinematic installed Procella Audio P8 LCR speakers with two Procella Audio P5V speakers behind the viewers. “They are slim and shallower that other speaker constructions, which allowed us to extend the distance between the speaker and the viewer, which is necessary to achieve a spatial effect.”

“Large bevels not only significantly lowered the room but also complicated the acoustics.”

Above the seating area, Procella Audio P5IW speakers are installed. “Their great advantage is the wide angle of sound propagation and the tilt of the wall with the speakers. When installed in a wall or ceiling, the tweeter is tilted at an angle of 15 degrees which helped the situation of an oddly shaped and sized room.”

The low frequency distribution was provided by the Procella Audio V18 subwoofer while the higher bass ranges were from the Procella Audio P15 subwoofer. Both were powered by a Procella Audio DA-07 amplifier. Powersoft Quattrocanali 1204 power amplifiers drive the front and height channels.

“To calibrate the subwoofers, an external DSP processor was required, which allowed us to set the cut-off, delay, and upload of the PEQ filters,” explains Gratkowski. “We handed over all processing and decoding of source signals to the Marantz AV8805A home cinema processor. The signal from the cinema processor went to the Powersoft terminals, with a power of 300W per channel. This combination provided the right amount of energy. It is worth noting that Procella Audio sets have a very high efficiency, which makes it much easier to drive them.”

Final touches

The cinema room also features six dimmable light circuits controlled from the Control4 remote control and the app on the phone or tablet, allowing the homeowner to create scenes and set the mood of the room. Control4 is also used to control the entire cinema system in the room.

When the room was finished, the homeowner decided to buy a sofa instead of cinema seats. “In the case of small rooms, this often works better,” says Gratkowski. “It allows room for more guests too. In addition, the sofa creates a homely atmosphere.”

Although the project saw the integrator face multiple challenges, the outcome has exceeded the homeowner’s expectations who has spent many hours in the room watching the latest movies and series.


Tech Spec

Addictive Sound Acoustic Treatment

Apple TV 4K

Control4 EA-3 Controller

Control4 Lighting

Control4 SR-260 Remote Controller

Control4 Touchscreen

Marantz AV8805A AV Processor

MiniDSP 2x4 HD

Panasonic 4K UHD Player

Powersoft Quattrocanali 1204

Procella Audio DA-07 Subwoofer Amplifier

Procella Audio P5 Atmos Speakers

Procella Audio P5IW Speakers

Procella Audio P5V Surround Speakers

Procella Audio P8 Front LCR Speakers

Procella Audio P15 Subwoofer

Procella Audio V18 Subwoofer

Satellite Receiver 4K

Screen Research Supreme FS3 THX 100” Screen

Sony VPL-VW790ES Projector